New charges were lobbed by both sides in the Vanderbilt rape investigation in a heated court hearing this morning.
The hearing was supposed to sort out exactly who would lead former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg's legal team after his first two attorneys asked to be removed from the case. But that issue wasn't formally settled in the hearing before Judge Monte Watkins.
Instead, Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman accused another member of Vandenburg's defense team of breaking state laws. Building on a previous claim that California attorney Albert Perez Jr. had destroyed evidence, Thurman said retired California Judge Eugene Osko was illegally practicing law in Tennessee by participating in the case as part of Vandenburg's defense team.
"He's violating our Supreme Court rules, he's violating our laws," Thurman said.
Another of Vandenburg's attorneys, John Herbison, fired back by saying Thurman should be removed from the case because he had become a witness. Herbison asked for a hearing on the Perez matter.
"We vigorously dispute the factual assertions," Herbison said.
Neither side clarified what Perez was accused of destroying, and no hearing was set to resolve that dispute. Watkins ordered Herbison to respond to the charge in writing.
Herbison and Fletcher Long, another Tennessee attorney, have yet to be officially recognized by the court as Vandenburg's lawyers. Watkins asked them to include that request in the paperwork he wants them to file.
Vandenburg appeared in the courtroom but did not speak. He also declined to speak with reporters afterward, although he declared his innocence in a brief interview aired Monday by WTVF Channel 5.
Perez and Osko remained on Vandenburg's team but required an in-Tennessee attorney to sponsor their involvement. Vandenburg on Monday settled on Clarksville attorneys Long and Herbison.
While the attorney shuffling may sound like a simple matter, it was made more complicated last week, when Thurman filed paperwork asking to have Perez forced off Vandenburg's legal team. Thurman accused him of being an "unindicted co-conspirator" and said he destroyed evidence of the rape.
Vandenburg, 20, from Indio, Calif.; Cory Batey, 19, of Nashville; Brandon Eric Banks, 19, from Brandywine, Md.; and Jaborian McKenzie, 18, from Woodville, Miss., are each charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery in the June 23 rape of an unconscious Vanderbilt student. Vandenburg also is charged with one count of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence.
All four have pleaded not guilty and are free on bonds ranging from $50,000 to $350,000.
Also charged in the case are Miles Finley and Joseph Quinzio, two of Vandenburg's friends from California, who are accused of tampering with evidence. Thurman recently wrote that both are cooperating with prosecutors and that they are ready to accuse Perez of being "an active participant and co-conspirator in the tampering and destruction of evidence."